Thursday, November 17, 2005

Nice, But Not The Green Bullet

Green Laptops Give UN A Woody

I have worked in IT for a long time. I have a network in my home that rivals that in many medium sized businesses.

I've watched middle class parents in the US and Canada 'panic' that their children will be left behind, with a resulting appeasement from the school boards who put computers in every class room. The result? Kids learn to deliver eye-candy using Microsoft cut-and-paste.

Young people can learn a technology in hours. No need to panic. I prefer to have my children be children first, interact with the physical and natural world, and more importantly, learn to interact with others before they stick their heads comfortably down a computer screen. The digital world is seductive, but hollow.

This little green laptop smacks of the silver bullet syndrome. I would put clean, disease-free drinking water on a higher priority than laptops in shanty-town. Same with waste treatment. I would put language skills on a higher priority than laptops. I would put creation of valuable education content on a higher priority than laptops. If the idea of using technology to deliver education is so compelling, then creation of content should be going full tilt right now.

Now, who is going to pay for these green laptops? Who is going to monitor their effectiveness? From what I have seen in western classrooms, there is precious little educational content developed to leverage the computers in the classroom. This is in the West!

This is a solution out in search of a problem. It has the potential to devolve into a giant boondoggle, fueled by Good Intentions, probably Greed, and Ignorance.

Technology is great. I love it. But what counts most is content - the information. I've seen too many hours spent formatting documents and not enough hours researching or thinking. Because I do not see the plan for the content to be delivered on these Green Laptops, I see a mass hysteria to deliver toys to the shantytowns of the third world. Content. It's about content.